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  • Space isn’t so empty these days.

  • There are millions of pieces of debris orbiting the Earth,

  • including rocket remnants and dead satellites

  • They travel at up to 17,500 miles an hour,

  • 10 times faster than a bullet.

  • And a piece of debris as small as a marble,

  • can cause catastrophic damage, as shown here in the movie Gravity.

  • But Miki Ito is leading a team of engineers in Tokyo

  • to develop spacecrafts which could solve that problem.

  • This one is a mockup of ELSA-d.

  • Future satellites will be launched with a special magnetic plate

  • which ELSA-d can connect to.

  • The magnetic plates are fitted to satellites before they are sent into space.

  • When a satellite fails or needs replacing after five to ten years

  • ELSA-d will be launched to remove it.

  • Equipped with cameras and range sensors,

  • ELSA-d will identify the dead satellite’s position, approach it, then capture it with magnets

  • and bring it down to the Earth’s atmosphere where they will burn up together.

  • Then a new satellite can go up to the same orbit to replace the old one.

  • With less risk of being destroyed by space debris.

  • Miki started to be interested in space when she was a teenager.

  • She went on to study aerospace engineering at university

  • and then worked as a satellite engineer for a government-sponsored program for five years.

  • In 2015, she joined Astroscale -

  • which describes itself as the world's only startup

  • with a mission to deal with space debris.

  • As to be expected, the ELSA-d comes with a big price tag,

  • costing tens of millions of dollars.

  • The team is planning a demonstration mission in early 2020

  • to test out ELSA-d in space.

  • Although last year, their mission to send up another spacecraft went wrong

  • when the rocket failed and crashed into the sea.

Space isn’t so empty these days.

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